It would be easy to say that Manchester United v Arsenal is the tie of the sixth round of the FA Cup, but in terms of rivalries, the Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion could take some beating this weekend.
It’s a Brummie derby that has so much riding on it. Two new managers – Tim Sherwood has just taken over at Villa Park and Tony Pulis joined the Baggies in January. Reputations are there to be made and the FA Cup can be a wonderful distraction from the trials and tribulations of Premier League survival.
To make the game even more spicier, the two teams met in midweek, with Tim Sherwood gaining his first league win as Villa boss with a 2-1 victory.
Both teams are well overdue some tangible success. Villa’s last FA Cup triumph was in 1957 while Albion’s 1968 victory in the competition has long since yellowed. Villa last reached the final in 2000, the old Wembley’s final final, and Albion are still looking longingly at the days of Jeff Astle and Tony Brown. In fact, the year Villa were beaten by Chelsea was their last foray into the last eight. Albion, meanwhile, are still kicking themselves for missing out in the 2008 semi-final to Portsmouth.
But the two clubs are certainly no strangers when it comes to the FA Cup. They’ve met a total of 15 times in the competition, including [astonishingly] three finals – 1887, 1892 and 1895. The last time was in 1998 when Villa beat the Baggies 4-0.
This game could be a case of Benteke v Berahino. There’s no doubt who has been in the more consistent form this season – the big Belgian has netted four goals while Saido Berahino has scored 18. Both players were on the scoresheet in the league meeting this week. Pulis may have a selection problem after losing at Villa Park. His goalkeeper, Ben Foster, fumbled a cross and then fouled Matt Lowton to give Villa the stoppage time penalty converted by Benteke. Sherwood, meanwhile, was punching the air with delight after gaining his first league win and he’s been talking of “aiming for Europe” since that game – presumably through a FA Cup win.
Both sides have the chance to get to Wembley given the composition of the last eight. You have to assume Liverpool will get through against Blackburn and of course, one of United and Arsenal will bite the dust. This could bring a last four of Liverpool, United, Reading and one of the Birmingham sides.
A cup final for either Sherwood or Pulis would make the sort of story that FA Cup legends are made of. It has happened so many times in the past. Pulis was there in 2011 with Stoke City, but Sherwood is something of a managerial novice. He made his reputation as a stand-in at Tottenham last season. Game of the People tips an Albion win, but the tie may well go to a replay.
The last 10 seasons, where they have fallen:
|Final||(last time 2000)||(last time 1968)|
Last 10 meetings (Aston Villa score first in each case)
And back in gas-lit days…three finals
At the Kennington Oval, Villa and Albion fought out the final – the first Midlands clubs to contest the cup. A crowd of 12,000 attended and the weather was fine with a little wind coming from behind the gasometer end of the ground. It was fast and furious stuff and the game was settled by goals from Denis Hodgetts and Archie Hunter. In 1892, Albion sprung a surprise at the Oval, winning 3-0 in front of a record 32,000 attendance. The press commented: “As, on paper form, Aston Villa were much the better team, the result was most disappointing to their supporters.” Villa won the other cup final meeting between the two clubs, thanks to a 30-second goal from Bob Chatt. This game was played at the Crystal Palace and attracted some 42,000 people.